Battle for leadership of the American hotel market divides travelers by age and occasion

By Matthew Petrie

In the US Hotel Guest Survey (HGS) Brand Ranking Index (a composite measure of brand health which includes metrics such as brand awareness, usage, preference and customer advocacy) Marriott emerges as the No.1 Brand in the US, narrowly ahead of its upscale rival, Hilton.

However, Hilton has the lead on the majority of metrics among leisure travelers and is also the preferred brand among key business travel segments such as ‘frequent stayers’ (those who stay more than 20 nights a year on business) and among the increasingly important ‘Millennial’ traveller.

Beyond the fight for No.1 position, a number of brands recorded strong year-on-year gains. Hilton Garden Inn is named Most Improved Brand after a second consecutive year of improvement leaves it on the brink of breaking into the top 10 brands overall. Recently acquired by IHG, Kimpton registers significant headway on brand awareness, while Hyatt Place, excelling on the guest experience metrics, emerges as the most improved midscale brand.

  Top Ranked Brand Most Improved Brand
Overall Marriott Hilton Garden Inn
Economy Hampton Inn Hampton Inn
Midscale Holiday Inn Hyatt Place
Upper Full Service Marriott Wyndham
Luxury Hyatt Regency Kimpton


Beyond the traditional measures of brand health, BDRC reports its latest HGS Brand Margin rankings – a proprietary measure of the potential of a brand to command a price premium over other brands or equivalent unbranded alternatives. Against their respective competitive sets, Four Seasons, Disney, Best Western and La Quinta Inn/Suites are the leading performers, with brand advocates indicating a willingness to pay 10 – 15% more to stay in hotels belonging to these brands relative to unspecified alternatives in the same tier.

BDRC’s survey reports a healthy 13% increase in domestic market demand from American hotel travelers over the previous 12 months, with the bulk of this growth coming from the corporate market. Frequent business travelers now account for 64% of all business nights, up significantly year-on-year.

While the popularity of the US as a destination hotel market continues to grow, American travelers are increasingly international in orientation too, with a significant increase in the volume of US citizens staying in hotels in international destinations.

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